The Insiders (The Insiders Trilogy #1) by Tijan



I looked away. I didn’t want to see her torment. Her torment.

I grimaced, but I was angry. I had a right to be. There was an entire family I didn’t know about, and she made that decision. Not me. Did he—no, no, no. The spinner was on in my head, going round and round, but I was feeling overwhelmed.

I whipped around, heading for the door. “I have to get out of here. I can’t think—”

The door opened, and Detective Wilson stepped inside.

I moved aside, reaching to catch the handle after he let go.

He didn’t. He shut the door and moved in front of it. Then he folded his hands in front of him. “You’re not leaving this room.”

My mom spoke up, sighing. “Let her go. She just needs to walk for a bit. She’ll come back with eighty percent of the answers already figured out.”

Wilson’s response was to fold his arms over his chest. He locked eyes with me. “Sit down. You have to make a decision before we can pass you off.”

A decision? I needed out of there. I needed air, and space, but I also needed answers.

I looked right at my mom. “I’ll stay.” A beat passed. “If she goes.”

Chrissy’s mouth dropped. “Bailey…”

I wasn’t normally a cold person, or an angry person. I joked. They were lame jokes, but it was my thing. It was early morning by now. The attack at my house was last night. It felt so long ago. It was 4:18 a.m. when I was being taken to the hospital. Another two hours waiting, being looked over. One more hour to get released, and the last hour it took to be brought here.

It hit me then, why we’re here.

All of this—everything that had happened after they tried to take me—was all for him.

I looked up at the camera then.

He was watching me.

I gutted out, “You gotta go, Mom.”

She went.





FOUR



Everything happened simultaneously after that.

Bright’s phone buzzed. She gave the nod to her partner, and the door opened again.

I don’t know who I was expecting to come through that door. It could’ve been Chrissy coming back, or my father deciding to meet me in person, but I was not expecting the man who stepped inside our room. If I could call him a man, because he looked like a young man, like he was only a few years older than me. But no. Thinking on it, I was right the first time. He was all man.

He was hot.

Cognac-brown eyes, hair almost as dark as mine, a strong jawline. There were indentations around his mouth, making his lip so pronounced, and so tempting. His cheekbones were high and chiseled. Broad and defined shoulders. Lean, athletic build.

There wasn’t an ounce of fat on him.

I was looking, and I shouldn’t be, but I was, and I was doing the calculating in my head, and yeah. This guy was ripped.

He was mesmerizing.

And he had power and authority and he knew how to use both of them.

He walked into that room like he owned it, like he’d been there the whole time, like everyone and everything belonged to him and we had yet to learn that fact.

The room shrank around him.

The air electrified. It became more energized.

Bright and Wilson both straightened, their shoulders rolling back.

They weren’t the only ones affected.

This guy didn’t even look at me, but I felt his attention. I felt that if I moved even a strand of hair, he’d know. My insides were turned inside out because, whoever this guy was, I already felt owned, and I hated that.

My body was warming. A fire was in there, building. My throat felt parched.

I felt zapped, all my nerve endings already at the ready, and it was just because this guy walked into the room.

He nodded to both detectives, who dipped their heads in return.

A chair scraped against the floor. A click of heels and both detectives were gone.

The door slammed shut behind them.

The brevity of the situation hit me hard, right in the sternum, and I swallowed over a sudden lump in my throat. I wasn’t sure if it was a good lump or a quivering one, but here we were.

It was me and him. We were alone in this room. And then another fact hit me square in the forehead. It hadn’t been my father watching. It was this guy.

Who was this guy?

He’d been the one on the other side of that camera. I felt it, the hairs on the back of my neck standing upright. Tingles shot through me, sweeping through me, making me feel more. Just … more.

I wasn’t sure if I liked this “more.”